How helping out at the family business grew into a solution that can change the wholesale industry for good.

Many players in the wholesale industry, particularly SMEs, are held back by a particular problem: ordering processes are largely done by hand...
Ayoub Assabban
Ayoub Assabban
August 1, 2022
mn. read

Many players in the wholesale industry, particularly SMEs, are held back by a particular problem: ordering processes are largely done by hand, wasting tons of time for customers and wholesale employees.

OrderCast is a turnkey SaaS solution that can get a wholesale e-commerce site up and running in a matter of days, if not hours, completely transforming the customer experience and opening doors to new growth for wholesalers. Below, OrderCast co-founder and CEO Ayoub Assabban explains how the company came into being.

“Ayoub, you’re the cofounder and CEO of OrderCast — can you quickly introduce yourself?

I’m the 3rd kid out of 5, born into a family of entrepreneurs. I went to engineering school in Brussels, and that’s where I started my first startup project, trying to make it easier for more people to get their driver’s license. We wanted to upend the restrictive world of driving schools. We joined The Family, a major European accelerator. The project didn’t end up working, but it gave me lots of experience in the digital world.

I then started working with Thomas Dermine, Belgium’s Secretary of State for Renewal, focusing on how the city of Charleroi could use digital tools to start growing again. Then during the COVID crisis, my father’s wholesale business was moving lots of products, but they’d hit their ceiling. And so my dad asked me to help with digitizing the business so they could move faster and grow more.

So the idea for OrderCast grew out of helping your father’s wholesale business during the COVID crisis. What’s it like being on the operations level of a wholesale business day after day?

It’s pretty intense, and a long way from anything that I ever read in books at school! I worked at all levels of the business for 18 months, trying to really understand the needs in each area: checkout, order prep, stocking, sales, accounting, etc. That hands-on work was where I could feel the pains of processes that weren’t optimized.

And that’s exactly why OrderCast is so effective — our whole solution is built on feedback from users and clients, going back to those first 18 months of work! We didn’t build anything because we just dreamed it up, thinking that we’d be able to figure out a better way for wholesalers to work. We took everything directly from their daily needs, which was important because otherwise we’d never get any buy-in on their part.

How did the idea of OrderCast come about? Was there a particular moment when you realized, “There’s a big opportunity here!”

It’s pretty simple. OrderCast was born because there’s a hole in the market: even though there are lots of digital solutions (ERPs, CRMs, EDSs, etc.), SMEs suffer from a big lack of digitalization.

Their owners know it, because they just keep hitting a ceiling created by time-consuming processes. The customers know it, because they spend so much time sending in orders by email, phone or fax.

And it’s understandable that the industry is behind the times, it’s not exactly a world that was built on apps living in the cloud. Plus, by now a lot of wholesalers have had very bad experiences where they paid lots of money for technology, but with very little in terms of results! There’s stories you wouldn’t believe — half of our current pipeline is involved in lawsuits against their IT providers. And as an outside observer, I’d note that all the blame isn’t on the IT people either, it can be very difficult to build a solution for a client that doesn’t really know what they want.

That’s really where OrderCast is different: our clients don’t need a custom-made solution, and we’ve got the industry knowledge that lets us create a one-size-fits-all that meets their exact needs.

“How did you build the first version of OrderCast?”

It all started with a Google Sheet and an open-source mobile scanner app that I got on the Apple Store. I took 10 products from my dad’s wholesale database, put them into the spreadsheet, and then I could scan them in the warehouse. I still remember my dad’s eyes popping when he saw how it worked, because it was so simple yet such a big leap forward.

Then I went to talk with my friend and co-founder Borys Turii, who was at the time a Team Leader at Volvo in the autopilot division. It took us 6 months to build a real MVP, and the very first clients came almost immediately. There are just so many wholesale customers who are tired of not knowing what price they’ll pay, or having to call or send a fax to add another product to their order; the wholesalers know it, and they’re very happy to have a fast, effective solution.

“What kind of reactions are you hearing from wholesalers that you’ve talked to about the ordering problem and what OrderCast represents for the industry?”

We’re able to set up the digital front office and back office for our clients in as little as an hour (how long it takes depends on how good of a database they already have). We’re the first ones in the wholesale industry to really generate a “Wow!” effect, it’s a giant step in terms of customer experience, finally taking a consumer-oriented approach.

With today’s tech, it’s possible to have an e-commerce site up and running almost as easily as signing up for Netflix. Obviously, actually delivering that kind of simplicity is a big technical challenge, and we’re proud of the obstacles we’ve overcome so far. But in the end it’s really about creating that awesome moment for wholesalers, we’re driven by being able to open up a whole new world for them.

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Ayoub Assabban

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